So I quit sugar in May of 2014. After looking at my sugar intake, wondering if some of my health problems could be improved, and knowing I just needed to eat healthier in general, I set out to understand what exactly sugar is and why it’s so bad for me.
I decided I would eat a little sugar as possible from May to November. I couldn’t even bear to think of not being able to enjoy Thanksgiving, so that was when the experiment would end.
Here is what my experiment looked like:
- No drinks except water.
- No desserts — candy, cookies, ice cream, cake, etc.
- No sweeteners of any kinds in food I was eating: white/brown sugar, fruit juice concentrate, fruit juice, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, honey, molasses, etc.
- No limits on other foods — I could eat as much as I wanted of meat, veggies, carbs, etc. No starving here!
- No limits on whole fruits — raspberries, apples, watermelon, cherries, etc.
- Zone bars for breakfast because at the time I was busy and didn’t make time for breakfast on work mornings. (I have since cut these out of my diet – they’re filled with a lot of unhealthy ingredients).
- 2 cheat days a month — I could eat sugar on those days.
- Allowed myself a small amount of honey on oatmeal in the morning or a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch after I was about 4 months in.
Physical results after 6 months:
- Less headaches
- No afternoon slump
- Less fatigued
- Able to wake up earlier (happily not grumpily)
- Less digestive issues (TMI maybe but hey this is #realtalk – my bowels actually got on a regular schedule, hooray!)
- Less bloating after I ate
- More energy
Emotional results after 6 months:
- Less mood swings, more stability emotionally
- Better clarity and focus
- Less desire for/dependence on sugar
- Less desire for processed foods
- Healthier diet choices overall
- Started paying more attention to how my body would feel when I would eat
- My portions got a little smaller because I could tell when I was full
- Ate smaller meals/snacks more frequently
- My appetite got more consistent
- My body became intolerant of a certain amount of sugar (cheat days) or downright ill from certain foods (too much chocolate, any amount of ice cream, etc).
I learned a lot more through those 6 months than I ever thought I would. I never expected that this would change my life, but it has. I was totally surprised at how much my life revolved around sugar. I thought about it all day long. My mood would instantly brighten when I had sugar (followed by a crash later, but then I’d just eat more sugar). I realized how my emotions were deeply connected to food and especially to sugar.
I remember one night (about 2 weeks sugar free) walking into the living room. John came over to me with a look of concern on his face and said, “How are you doing?” I said, “I’m fine, why?” He sat down on the stairs and said, “You don’t seem like you’re fine,. You seem kind of depressed.” All of the sudden this wave of emotion rushed over me, and I burst into tears.
I hadn’t really identified it yet, but I realized he was right. I woke up in the morning and (don’t judge me, just being honest) literally thought, “What’s the point in getting up and going about my day if I can’t have anything sweet?”
I had no clue how closely my emotions, and in some ways my happiness, were tied to this substance. It became a relief, a burden off my shoulders, to not have such an emotional connection to food. I started to be able to eat because I was hungry, not because I was bored or craving a sugar high. I found that I had more energy and greater joy. I am sure my blood sugar levels were more stable, so I felt more consistent on a daily basis.
For me, it came down to this:
I could either end up with more and more health issues in the future because I DID IT TO MYSELF with my unhealthy diet….or I could work on it and start being more intentional in my diet. There are so many people out there who have 100% preventable health issues. I have no doubt I was headed for diabetes/insulin resistance, eventual weight gain, continued mood swings, continued digestive issues, and who knows what else.
It’s not easy. I still struggle today.
And it’s extra hard with sugar. It’s not like when you eat something rotten and then within minutes you feel awful and can pinpoint exactly what made you sick. No, it’s much more subtle than that.
It’s looking at the Tylenol bottle and realizing you need to go buy more and then thinking, “Wow, if this is all gone, then I must have headaches way more often than I realize.” It’s laying down for an afternoon nap because you’re grumpy and have no energy, even on your days off. It’s constant trips to the pantry for a piece of chocolate here and a cookie there, until you feel sick and don’t want your dinner. It’s taking one more piece of cake at a party even though you know you’ll regret it later.
Everything we do has consequences, either positive or negative.
I have found there are no long term positive effects of eating sugar.